From Crisis to Opportunity: Recovering California’s Commitment to Equity


As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes in California, education leaders are taking stock of student needs as they plan for the return of all students to in-person instruction. Both the pandemic and the broad outcry for the end of racial injustice have made clear that our systems have disregarded the needs of students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, youth in foster care, students experiencing housing insecurity, students with disabilities, and other marginalized children and youth for much too long. 

At this inflection point, we have a unique opportunity for transformation. It’s clear to all stakeholders that students cannot return to schools with a “business as usual” approach. We also have a once-in-a-lifetime infusion of state and federal resources for education. We are urging education leaders at all levels to use this opportunity to reimagine and rebuild our schools in ways that truly put the most marginalized students at the center of how schools operate. Education leaders can do this by using a period of approximately six weeks before instruction begins to offer school communities a restorative restart. During this period leaders can establish practices to transform schools that can continue for the long term. These practices include:



Prioritize building and nurturing relationships of mutual support and high expectations among students, families, and educators.


Identify the unique social, emotional, mental health, language, and academic needs of every student; develop plans to address those needs.


Invest in staff and deepen community-based partnerships—including during summer and out-of-school time—to address students’ individualized learning and mental health needs.


Support educators to prioritize equity; racial, cultural, and linguistic relevance; rigor; and the most essential standards in curriculum and instruction.


Lay the groundwork for long-term systemic transformation via collaboration and co-creation among racially, linguistically, and culturally diverse students and families; educators; and community partners.

Reimagine and Rebuild California Schools

Voices from California Higher Education

The California legislature is sending public colleges and universities some of the greatest levels of one-time spending in recent history. Based on insights from college and university practitioners and students, our latest brief provides recommendations on how to use these new funding sources to better support low-income, first-generation students of color, with examples from the field.

Restarting School with Equity at the Center

COVID-19 and our nation’s reckoning on racial justice is calling on all of us—from state to local leaders, teachers, parents, students and advocates—to transform schools and districts as we know them. This brief, released by a wide-ranging coalition of California organizations, outlines steps school districts and schools can take now to rebuild and recover to meet and support the social-emotional and academic needs of students and lay the groundwork for long-term systemic transformation.

Affecting Transformative Change

The current circumstances of the pandemic, the return to classrooms, and the infusion of stimulus funding provide education system leaders a chance to rebuild and reimagine schools that center holistic needs of students. These guides highlight questions that families and advocates can ask their district leaders, and provide actionable steps and for district leaders to implement right now to respond to the needs of all students. In this moment, all stakeholders in education can share the common goal to affect transformative change.

Equity and the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan

The Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan provides an opportunity to ensure the students most deeply affected by school closures receive the support they need to thrive in a distance learning environment. Education leaders must focus planned actions on making sure these students and their families are connected to their schools, have full access to instruction, and have the learning needs resulting from the pandemic met.

State and Local Considerations for Addressing 5 Key Equity Challenges for 2020-21:

Social Emotional Wellness

Research shows that students fare better academically when their social, emotional, and mental wellness needs are met. State and education leaders must continue to work swiftly to prioritize social emotional learning (SEL) as they plan for the forthcoming academic year.

Digital Equity

The digital and technology resource divide is not a new phenomenon facing school-aged children of color and children experiencing poverty. Educators and policymakers across the state must quickly re-envision education given the likely necessity of online distance learning.

Family and Educator Engagement

School and district leader must center students, families, and eductors voices in their desicionmaking and provide resources necessary to engage, like information, training opportunities, and language translation and interpretation.

Family Support for Distance Learning

Distance Learning presents a challenge for many families and requires new ideas and a renewed commitment to supporting families as true partners. As schools plan for the 2020-21 school year, engaging and supporting families in distance learning must be a priority for state and school leaders.

Assessment of Student Learning

State and local education leaders should begin developing plans now to provide educators and families with accurate information at the beginning of the school year about academic performance to address students’ needs while centering their socioemotional well-being.

Additional Resources

The current crisis continues to affect us all statewide, nationwide, and globally – and at a time when California already needs to do much more, much faster to achieve educational justice.

While school and college leaders, teachers, students, parents, and families continue adjusting plans and responses to the Coronavirus, Ed Trust–West will continue to share education equity-centered resources and information, here.

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.